Priceline co-founder: 'It's not going to be smooth' economic recovery from coronavirus

Scott Case to answer entrepreneurs' questions at virtual EntreFEST

“Start-ups face enormous challenges on their best day,” says Scott Case, founding CTO of Priceline. (Courtesy Upside.com)

There aren’t many people who have spent more time working in start-ups than Scott Case, who has either created or helped with countless new businesses in the past two decades.

“I have worked 14, 15, 16 hours a day, seven days a week since I was in college because that’s what I love to do,” said Case, who was the founding chief technology officer of Priceline. “I love to create things.”

Those two decades of experience have Case, the keynote speaker at this week’s EntreFEST, remaining pragmatic about the future of start-ups in a post-coronavirus era.

“Start-ups face enormous challenges on their best day,” Case said.

Case sees the recession from coronavirus as a combination of the “day-to-day crisis” following 9/11 and the slow, gradual growth following the 2008 financial crisis, resulting in “profound negative consequences.”

“It’s not going to be smooth,” Case said. “This situation has the worst of both of those problems.”

The key, Case said, for start-ups is to figure out what consumers are likely to resume doing — 12 months from now and beyond — and take advantage of those behavioral changes.

“People still need to eat,” Case said. “They still need to buy things to maintain the basics of their life. So the demand will be reduced across the board, but there still will be transactions happening.”

Entrepreneurs should be as adaptable as much as possible to account for the economic instability, Case said. That includes having enough cash on hand to be flexible.

Case also sees the challenges blacks and women disproportionately face continuing.

“Whether that was pre-pandemic, during the pandemic or likely after the pandemic, that reality for people of color is likely to continue,” Case said. “It’s not going to get any easier to be a female entrepreneur or a black entrepreneur or an Hispanic entrepreneur in this crisis or post- this crisis.”

Case isn’t in an easy position himself as the CEO of Upside.com, a service designed to make booking and managing business travel easier. At one point, Upside.com’s customers were down 95 percent, and he wouldn’t be surprised if it takes five years for business flights to return to 2019 numbers.

“We’ve climbed back up very, very slowly,” Case said.

Case will speak Thursday at 11:45 a.m. at this year’s virtual EntreFEST. He plans to use an “ask me anything” format to cover as many entrepreneurs’ questions as possible.

“My hope is that I can play a role in providing the best guidance that 30 years of getting my --- handed to me can bring to the entrepreneurs that decide to tune into EntreFEST,” Case said.

EntreFEST is an annual two-day conference for entrepreneurs in Eastern Iowa. It is online this year — Thursday and Friday — because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets are available at entrefest.com/buy-tickets.

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com